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Keywords:

  • lignocellulosic conversion;
  • bioplastics production;
  • Saccharophagus degradans

Abstract

Utilization of wastes from agriculture is becoming increasingly important due to concerns of environmental impact. The goals of this work were to evaluate the ability of an unusual organism, Saccharophagus degradans (ATCC 43961), to degrade the major components of plant cell walls and to evaluate the ability of S. degradans to produce polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs, also known as bioplastics). S. degradans can readily attach to cellulosic fibers, degrade the cellulose, and utilize this as the primary carbon source. The growth of S. degradans was assessed in minimal media (MM) containing glucose, cellobiose, avicel, and bagasse with all able to support growth. Cells were able to attach to avicel and bagasse fibers; however, growth on these insoluble fibers was much slower and led to a lower maximal biomass production than observed with simple sugars. Lignin in MM alone did not support growth, but did support growth upon addition of glucose, although with an increased adaptation phase. When culture conditions were switched to a nitrogen depleted status, PHA production commences and extends for at least 48 h. At early stationary phase, stained inclusion bodies were visible and two chronologically increasing infrared light absorbance peaks at 1,725 and 1,741 cm−1 confirmed the presence of PHAs. This work demonstrates for what we believe to be the first time, that a single organism can degrade insoluble cellulose and under similar conditions can produce and accumulate PHA. Additional work is necessary to more fully characterize these capabilities and to optimize the PHA production and purification. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;100: 882–888. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.